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NASA´s spacecraft Dawn begins trek to asteroid belt


Source: | 09-29-2007 11:48

NASA's spacecraft Dawn rocketed away on Thursday towards an unprecedented double encounter in the asteroid belt.

Scientists hope the mission will shed light on the early solar system by exploring the two largest bodies in the belt between Mars and Jupiter: an asteroid named Vesta and a dwarf planet named Ceres.

Dawn won't reach Vesta, its first stop, until 2011, and Ceres, its second and last stop, until 2015.

Chris Russell, Dawn Principle Investigator, said,"The science team has already had a chance to look at some of the parameters from their instruments very pleased by what they see."

Scientists chose the two targets not only because of their size but because they are so different from one another.

Vesta, not quite spherical, is dry and rocky, and appears to have a surface of frozen lava.

Ceres is nearly spherical, icy and may have frost-covered poles.

Both formed around the same time some 4-and-a-half billion years ago.